Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Trees of Our Little Acre - Ginkgo


There were two things that led to the planting of the Ginkgo tree in our gardens. The first was when the girls were in high school and had to do a leaf collection. Now most students and their parents might meet this assignment with groaning and disdain, but we saw it as an opportunity to go for a walk in the woods, one of our favorite things to do.

As the girls collected their leaves, I took notice of the unique and artistic shape of both the leaves and the trees themselves and made note of those that I wanted in our own yard. There were three: Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), and Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba).

A short time later, just before the turn of the century (doesn't that make us sound old!), Romie and I took a trip to Chicago specifically to visit Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio. We are both fans of his works and visited Fallingwater in Pennsylvania for our 25th wedding anniversary. Just outside his home and studio in Oak Park, Illinois, there grew* a lovely ginkgo tree, in fact the gift shop there is called The Ginkgo Tree Gift Shop. I loved its fan-shaped leaves and graceful form and knew then that I had to have one of these trees of our own.

Our ginkgo has been in two different locations since we purchased it. First, it was in the front yard. Such a lovely specimen tree should be shown off, after all. But with our house facing west and the open prairie before it with nothing to break the wind, it proved not to be the best place for it. So we moved it to the trellis garden near our patio, under a large oak tree.


Okay...I know...that doesn't sound like a smart move either. But our experience with our dogwood on our patio, which is also in the shade of that same oak tree, told us it would grow just fine there. Just not very fast.

The oak tree that shades our patio and gardens near the house is probably a couple hundred years old and it's a long way up to its first branches. This means that small trees will fit under it, such as dogwoods and ginkgos. The oak is a ceiling and the small trees are the larger pieces of furniture.

The ginkgo seems content under the oak. Two years ago when we had some wonderfully warm weather early, it leafed out beautifully only to be frozen by a late hard freeze followed by two weeks of cold wet weather. The ginkgo was clearly not happy, and protested by shedding every last one of its leaves. Things were not looking good and we wondered if it would recover.

But you can't keep a good tree down, and it bounced back in good form with no lasting evidence of the trauma it had gone through. This year, the ginkgo is looking as good as ever and especially this fall, its yellow leaves just glow among the green and brown around it. Maybe it's a floor lamp in this garden room.

The ginkgo is one incredibly interesting tree. Wikipedia has a plethora of information on its origin (China) and facts such as when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, four ginkgo trees growing within a mile of the bomb's center were one of the few living things to survive the blast. The trees are still alive today.

*In searching for links for this post, I learned the ginkgo tree we admired at Wright's home and studio was destroyed by a storm in 1992. When we visited, I plucked a couple of leaves from the tree and brought them home for framing. Though they turned brown, I still love seeing them and now they are even more special, knowing that the tree is no longer in existence.

Zone: 3-9

3 comments:

Carol said...

I just planted a ginkgo tree this fall, but made sure to get a male variety, as the fruit of a mature female ginkgo literally smells like 'dogdoo' on the ground.

And I always enjoyed helping my nephews with their leaf collections. We, I mean they, got A's with extra credit!

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

Meems said...

kylee: it is so interesting to hear about your trees... especially the ones we don't grow down here in florida.

i also enjoyed your post highlighting all the hues of red in your garden. red is my absolute all time favorite color and i enjoyed reading and viewing your plants and flowers. i'll be watching to see what you do with your azaleas. :-)

enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Aaaahhhh yes, any reason to walk in the woods is good. Love your trees.

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